Troops aid in construction for ice radar

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2001

VALDEZ (AP) -- Fort Wainwright soldiers and two Chinook helicopters were dispatched to Prince William Sound last week to help erect a tower for a new ice detection radar system.

The troops worked on the Reef Island ice detection project, headed up by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

Fourteen troops worked on the project. Tower installation was completed on Thursday and the troops headed back to Ft. Wainwright.

The large helicopters can accommodate a load of up to 20,000 pounds or 33 troops, and can travel at speeds of up to 175 knots.

Sgt. Carlos Huff of the Valdez National Guard Armory said the crew spent the last nine days hauling equipment out to Reef Island to assist in the construction of the tower. The troops slept in a tent heated by a potbelly stove.

The tower's foundation was installed using a micropile system, which involves injecting concrete into the ground rather than digging out a large pit and pouring the concrete.

''We drilled down about nine feet until we hit bedrock, then about three feet into the bedrock,'' said Tom Metlicka, president of Alaska Foundation Technologies, the company contracted to produce the foundation system. ''Each leg was tested to withstand 70,000 pounds of pressure and 30,000 pounds of uplift pressure.''

The radar system is expected to be completed by next spring. It will scan the area of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The tanker was trying to avoid reported ice when it struck Bligh Reef, spilling 11 million gallons into the Sound. Scientists and regulators say the danger has only gotten worse.

The system will use marine radar and a processor to scan tanker lanes for floating ice. The information will be instantly transmitted to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. and the Coast Guard in Valdez.

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